"Pets might like it, but among most consumers, "spent-hen" meat isn't very popular.
It's tough, stringy and far less appealing than the more tender meat of broiler chickens. But that didn't stop the government from using the National School Lunch Program as an outlet for egg producers struggling to find a market for 100 million egg-laying hens culled each year.
From 2001 though the first half of 2009, USA TODAY found, the government spent more than $145 million on spent-hen meat for schools — a total of more than 77 million pounds served in chicken patties and salads. Since 2007, 13.6 million pounds were purchased.
Newsletters of a trade group representing egg producers regularly note the need to find new markets to "dispose" of spent hens. The primary options: pet food, compost — and schools.
Campbell Soup, for instance, stopped using spent-hen meat more than a decade ago. The reason: "quality considerations," company spokesman Anthony Sanzio says."
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